CSA wants to send me to prison

June 25, 2011

Dear CSA.com,

Firstly, thank you for your Wedsite. I will try and keep my story as brief as possible, but believe me, I could write a book, as there are many issues of concern which affect many parents across the country.

My letter to you and your readers is about an ongoing problem with the ‘Child Support Agency’, that has been going on for the last seven years. I would like to ask you and your members if they have encountered similar problems as my partner and me, in the hope that I may be able to help and advice in any way so they can avoid the problems we have encountered, and also hear what you have to say.

Before I start, my children are very healthy and my partner and I have a wonderful relationship with them, we love and give as much as we possibly can and make sure they are taken care of. I have always paid maintenance on a regular basis for my children, more than what the on line CSA calculator suggests.

My partner over the last 10 years has treated my two boys as her own. We have the misfortune of not being able to have a child ourselves.

In respect of ourselves please don’t treat my letter as doom and gloom and woeful, because as already mentioned we are lucky as my children are very healthy strapping 6 ft plus teenagers now, and very happy, which has always been our main concern.

My story begins back in 2000 when my ex wife left me on my own with our two children to pursue a new life. I was working part time, whilst studying at university to become a teacher. I was heart broken by the separation, but I still had my two boys with me, a home and wonderful family and friends.

In 2001 my ex wife decided to take our two boys and move 70 miles away, of course I fought for them, but in this day and age fathers do not have a leg to stand on when it comes to their children.

Rather than use the child support agency, my ex partner and I had an arrangement that I pay her direct for the children. (This is also the preferred method that the child support agency asks parents to sort out their maintenance arrangements).

Each year I would get a statement from the CSA to say the amount I owed was nil. I thought this was because I had an arrangement with my ex partner to pay her direct as requested by her to the CSA. Because I was only working part-time whilst I built up my self employment, my ex partner and I had an agreement that: up and foremost I pay and do all the travelling to see my children weekends, (as she was moving 70 miles away with them), pay towards their clothes and school fees, and if I had any extra money left, I would give it to her.

In 2006 (6 years later), my ex partner went to the CSA and denied all such payments, and that I had not given her anything. I can hear you say, “Well he must have bank statements and cheque stubs etc”. The answer is no, as my ex partner insisted I gave her cash to see my children as it would effect her benefits.
I did not think this arrangement would ever become a problem as I thought we had a good understanding as far as the two boys were concerned. So it was not until 2006 I started paying her by cheque and kept my receipts for things she requested for the children. This is when it all started going wrong. I had all sorts of problems seeing and contacting my children, as well as lots of grief from the CSA.

In May 2006 I received a letter from the CSA informing me that I owed them £800 in back payments.
I informed the CSA that I did not owe this money, as I had paid the parent with care direct. My ex partner then informed the CSA that the money I was paying her, even though I had proof which I sent to the CSA, was not for maintenance. The CSA took on the mantle of my ex partner, and after many letters and phone calls I paid the £800, as it was making my partner and me ill with worry. (I do not understand why the CSA recommend that the parents sort out their maintenance payments between themselves if the parent with care can turn round and deny such payments and with out evidence the CSA pursue the non resident parent). It was hard for us to raise the £800, but thanks to a family member I paid it. After this, I started sending my payments direct to the CSA instead of my ex partner, (this was for more than the online calculator suggested), and I still continued to give extra for my children, as any good parents would. Because I would not pay my ex partner direct, she would stop me seeing and contacting my children, sometimes for 2or 3 months on end.

Just after this, the, same month in fact, I received another letter from the CSA, informing me I owed £1,284.70 in back payments. I wrote to them informing them that there must be a mistake. The letters continued to poor through my letter box and the phone did not stop ringing demanding money. I then telephoned dept management to arrange to pay £25.00 a month off the arrears. My partner and I decided to pay this, as we could not handle the pressure and bully tactics from the CSA anymore, in the hope that things might get back to normal. I continued to pay the CSA each month for the children.

March 2007 I received another letter from Mr S at the CSA informing me that I should be paying the CSA £85 a week. (This had also been back dated to 2003, which he did not inform me at the time).

As an example of one tax year my total annual net income as supplied to the CSA for 2005/2006 equals £9,301 or £178 a week which would have left me with £93 a week to live on. By the time I deducted fuel to see my children and for work, council tax mortgage I’m already in debt. This leaves my partner to pay all the other bills for gas, electricity, water etc, plus, groceries, cleaning, personal hygiene, cloths and repayments etc, which on secretary wages, left her in debt.
We were on a down hill spiral with a large dept to pay to the CSA, which has increased ever since.

The CSA would not accept my statement of voluntary payments since 2000 to the parent with care, because she had denied such payments and to make matters worse the CSA had back dated the maintenance payments without informing me.

I telephoned and spoke to Mrs B at the CSA, who informed me that the weekly Payment of £85.00 was correct even though they had not written to me to tell me about this in 2003. She also said that I am still on the old system for assessment even though the CSA were sending me leaflets for the new system to confuse matters even more. To explain further:

CSA 1 Pre 1993: is the old system of calculating child maintenance. if you are self employed and on this system, and your accounts/bank statements do not add up with what the “parent with care” is informing the CSA, with no evidence they will add on what they call departures to increase the assessment. Sometimes, as in my case, the assessment has equalled my net income which would give me nothing to live on. When you have run up a large dept because you cannot pay what the CSA ask for, the CSA will start pushing for liability orders, send the bailiffs round, force the sale of your home and even send you to prison.

CSA 2 Post 1993: This seems like a fair system as apparently they assess you on what you actually earn without departures, leaving you with enough to live on, and there is even an on line calculator to work out your assessment.
When I work out my assessment using the on line calculator, the assessment is 3 times less than what the CSA assessment team say I should be paying. I can accept a slight variation but 3 times more, which I could not afford anyway, does not make sense.

According to the mail I have been receiving from the CSA they can take a non-resident parents wages off their employer even if it leaves a non resident parent with nothing until such a debt is paid off. So I asked Mrs B, if I was employed, and living with a pregnant partner with children, the CSA would still take all my wages from me, even though they have made an error? She said “yes, this is the hard line that the CSA take”.

After lots more telephone calls and letters on the 8th June 2007 I received another letter stating that the total amount I owe is £8,529.63.
So the total amount has gone from £850.50 in May 2006 to £8529.63 within the space of just over one year, with the threat if I did not pay up that my credit rate could suffer, bailiffs, loosing my home, legal costs, disqualified from holding a drivers licence, confiscate my passport, and they would send me to prison.

I do not see the point in sending a parent to prison. Firstly they would not be able to support their children. Secondly when they come out of prison they would find it hard to find work to enable them to support their children, as well as pay off the debt which would still stand. So I suppose the CSA would throw you back in prison again if you still can’t pay off this debt and waste more tax payers money.

I also receive threatening phone calls on my personal mobile which is only used for family and close friends. I received a call 7.15pm from the CSA, threatening to take me to court and send me to prison if I didn’t pay up. When I asked how they expected me to pay this large debt I was told I had to get the money from somewhere and pay it. I suggested that maybe I should rob a bank. My partner and I have never been in trouble with the authorities or law, and found the prospects of prison etc, quite frightening.

September to march is my busiest time when I received most of my income. The CSA, were using these months, and calculating them as an average, and projecting this amount for the rest of the year to work out my average income for my assessment . On top of this the CSA assessment team in were adding on departures and liabilities to bump up my assessment producing a figure that is impossible for me to pay.

I use to play in a local band for fun, this was my hobby. We did a lot of Charity work, as well as the occasional paid gig, which by the time we took out expenses we did not break even. The CSA are accessing me on made up figures supplied to them by my ex partner that are not true with regards to band earnings with no evidence. I no longer play because off all the stress and hassle I get from the CSA.

My case went to the lower tribunal in 2008, Mrs S (Tribunal Judge 2008) said that she would not go back to 2001 as it was to long ago and there was no more said about the assessment up to 2005 hence I did not question the CSA assessment as I thought all the voluntary payments I paid to the PWC, that my ex partner denied stood, and that was the end of the matter.
So you can understand why I was shocked to discover just after the tribunal that they had back dated the assessments to 2001 and I now owed over £23,000!!!. The CSA can see by my accounts and tax returns that I supplied to them that the amount would have been impossible for me to pay, at times they have assessing me for the same amount as I earn.
The Tribunal consisted of 6 hours of gruelling interrogation. I was mainly asked questions about my accounts and bank statements going back to 2005/2006 for which I had trouble remembering the fine details as this was 2 or 3 years before.

Sometimes I was not given the opportunity to think about the questions they were asking me.
I was not given the chance during the tribunal to state my case, or ask the CSA officer at the tribunal, why they are assessing me unfairly. The tribunal was adjourned abruptly because they ran out of time and it was left for me to re-appeal for a re-hearing on confirmation of the tribunal’s findings.

After the tribunal 2008, with financial help I sort the aid of a family solicitor (Mr B), because being a layman against an appointed CSA forensic account, and CSA officer who all took on the mantle of my ex partner during the tribunal made it all one sided. The solicitor I used was stationed in Bristol. This was because I could only find three solicitors in this country that would take on the CSA with legal aid. At the present there are none, because of new government funding.

The CSA should ensure that parents do have representation at these tribunals and not just suggest in their correspondence that they can get representation if they want to but not necessary. I have never had to attend a tribunal before and thought the tribunal was set up to discuss matters in a fare and just manner. Parents do need representation at these tribunals.

The solicitor I asked to help me directly after the tribunal let me down by misinforming me and filing the appeal papers late. Mrs S will not let me re-appeal to the upper tribunal against the debt of over £23,000 because of this, as well as other reasons just to mention one – (She is at unease about my accounts because I could not explain why there was an odd payment of 33p paid in to my bank account 3 years before the tribunal). Even so this does not make her decision correct and there is plenty of merit to appeal.
My income is corroborated by evidence from HMRC who have accepted my statement of income for which I have paid tax upon. The tribunal do not explain why They go behind another government department.
The tribunal presented and prosecuted my ex partners case for her. The tribunal took on the mantle of my ex partner and made their role as adjudicator; and infected their judicial role. I thought the judge was very unfair during the proceeding.

I supplied all the information that the CSA required before the tribunal, i.e. bank statements and my accounts that were prepared by a chartered accountant. I have always been honest and up front with the CSA, and supplied them with everything they have requested. Mr W (forensic accountant) at the hearing asked me lots of questions about my accounts using accountant terminology from my prepared accounts and tax return that I did not understand. I checked an accountant after the tribunal who said it would have been unfair to expect me to understand the questions not being an accountant.

I was also accused by the tribunal of not supplying all the information.
Long before the tribunal I made contact with Mr Adam Hill at the CSA to check I had supplied all the correct documents and information to which he confirmed I had. The CSA and their tribunal services have lost copies of my P60s, Accounts, Bank statements etc. I do have proof. So it could be possible that they have lost information I sent them.

Mr W at the tribunal was also using interrogation tactics by asking me several questions at the same time and not allowing me to answer them one at a time which confused me. (I did explain to the tribunal and write to them long before, to inform them that I was dyslexic and had trouble remembering instructions and details when put in such ways), even so he carried on. Certain questions he kept repeating over and over again, questions that I had already answered or could not answer because it was about items on my bank statements and accounts from 2 or 3 years previous during the 6 hour session.

The CSA after the Tribunal also increased my partner’s earnings with out using her pay slips, with no evidence to also increase my assessment.

The tribunal was ended abruptly and Mrs S told me off for wasting their time because I could not answer all their questions about my prepared accounts that I did not understand and the odd payment into my bank accounts even though I had declared them as earnings. Mrs Street commented that they would ‘assess me on what they think I earn anyway’.

I telephoned the CSA assessment line after the tribunal and spoke to an officer who could not explain to me how they work out assessments on the old system CSA1 system. He said that it was too complicated to explain and that they use several computer screens and did not know himself. If he does not know how to work it out, then how would the parents?

I have asked the CSA on many occasions why parents on the old CSA1 assessments (pre 1993) are a lot higher than parents on new CSA2. I have still not had a proper answer. The CSA online calculator will confirm this.
I have no doubt that CSA calculations are correct; they are just using the wrong figures and adding on departures to increase the assessment which is wrong.

If the CSA supply the tribunal with the false information it should also be their responsibility to help put the decision right, even if the Child Support Decision Maker does not have the authority to revise the Tribunals decision, with regards to supplying the tribunal with the wrong figures for parents net income in relation to their assessments.

We had to attend a hearing in court for enforcement. I managed to get an adjournment pending further evidence, as my solicitor did not attend. To make matters worse my solicitor transferred the court hearing from to Bristol where his offices were whilst he was dealing with my case.

I did request in writing and verbally that I wanted to attend this hearing. He did say that this would be okay and that he would let me know. Even though I chased him he did not get back to me with regards to this matter which was for a Liability Order that had been made and bailiffs instructed by the CSA enforcement team, (Marston who have been knocking at our door since the tribunal). In addition an Interim Charging Order in respect of our property which I own jointly with my partner. When my divorce went through in 2003 I bought my ex partners share from her, in full and final settlement.

My advice to anyone in this situation is, do not let the bailiffs into your home, you do not have to let them in by law. Once they have made entry in to your home they can then force entry whenever they like. They may try and catch you out by asking you to use your phone or ask for a glass of water so you leave the door unintended, then they can just walk in. Don’t leave your back door unlocked or windows open. Lock any outside buildings, garages, garden sheds etc. Park your car around the corner as they can have it towed. Put a chain on your door for when you answer it, as it has been known for them to push in, and later deny. (This advice was given to me by The Community Legal Service).

These bailiffs are harsh and humiliating, and have no respect for you or your property, and will take what ever they like, from wherever they like, regardless of whether its yours, sentimental, private or personal, regardless of it value.
I made contact with Mrs C, the independent Case Examiner who made contact with Marston (bailiffs), on my behalf, as I was worried about them turning up when the children were staying with us, as they are not exactly subtle in their approach. I also wanted ICE, to ask Marston if they would take my children’s / partners possessions, and my work tools. She informed me they could not, and to let the bailiffs in to our home, and when they saw I had nothing they would leave us alone.
Mrs C was a little shocked when she got back to me the next day and explained that yes they would, take my children’s / partners possessions, and my work tools, in fact they will take anything they like.
The bailiffs did come when my children were younger and staying with me. This really frightened them. We did not open the door and they eventually went.

I have received a letter from Solicitors Regulation Authority to inform me that they have intervened into the Solicitors practice who took over my case and that he is no longer operating. For this reason the Legal ombudsman who I wrote to, too complain about the solicitor has contacted me in writing as well as verbally to say, even though the Solicitor has made lots of errors with this case, in the way he handled it, there is not a lot more they can do and I will need to seek an independent negligence solicitor, which we can not afford. With all the government cut backs it is difficult to get legal aid.

I quite often make contact in writing to the person from the CSA who wrote to me. On the occasions when they do reply, they inform me that they cannot help me or it is inappropriate for me to complain to them. They should inform me in their correspondence to who I should write too for information.

On the occasions when I do get replies it’s a case of their hands are tied as the lower tribunal services refuse me the right to appeal and there decision becomes law.

I have also been in contact with my local MP who put me in contact with ICE, and The Parliamentary Ombudsman. Even though they are sympathetic, and Want to help, they can not because the tribunal services have been given too much power and have made their decision, and refuse me the right to appeal.

It would have been impossible for me to pay what the CSA and tribunal have asked me to pay over the years and I would not have been able the finance the funds to see my children weekends when allowed, pay my bills, mortgage, Inland revenue, council tax, water rates, sewage, gas, electricity etc.

After the tribunal, December 2009 Mrs D (CSA enforcement Officer) during a meeting at my home informed me that if I could raise £10,000 they would write off the debt.
This would have meant selling personal possessions, including my car which meant I would loose most of my work and borrowing more money.
After the meeting Mrs D telephoned me 08/01/10, informing me that if we do not come up with £10,000 by that Tuesday my ex partner through her will force the sale of our home. She pressurise us during the Christmas holiday on the telephone to borrow money from somewhere or sale personal belongings to pay off this wrongly calculated debt. Over the years the CSA have not respected our private and family life with continual threats of prison etc. Christmas has always been hard emotionally for the family anyway since 2000.

I went to the building society to borrow money against my home and the best they could offer us because of my income was £5,000, which I have in writing. Mrs D asked me to bring a copy of this letter to another arranged meeting with regards to this loan. Borrowing £5000 on my house means I would have to pay another £224 a month extra on top my normal mortgage which we could not afford.

Out of desperation I telephoned Mrs D 12/01/10 and suggested that I sale my car and other personal belongings and, borrow some money.

My main concern is that without a car I will not be able to see my children, attend to my elderly father, (who lives on his own), emergency calls promptly as he suffers with cellulites, diabetes, arthritis and Charcot syndrome in his left leg. He has just had a hip replacement in his right side and his left leg looks like it will have to be amputated in the near future. He is confined to a wheel chair and I am his sole carer. Plus I would loose most of my work.

A meeting was arranged with Mrs D, my partner, ex-partner and me. My ex-partner insisted that she now wanted £16,000 or she would have my partner and I made homeless by forcing the sale of our home. I do not understand how she would have been prepared to accept £10,000 and then put it up to £16,000 when she discovered I had ways of raising her first request.
Mrs D said I should move out of Devon for a cheaper way of life so I could pay more, but this would not be appropriate with my elderly father’s illness and only dependent, plus I would loose any work I have.

The whole situation has caused my partner and me poor quality of life and a lot of time of sick over the years due to depression and stress. My partner and I both have very good GPs who have prescribed us with anti-depressants and organised counselling to help. Last month my partner’s doctor signed her off again, due to stress related illness because of all this. She is also under the occupational therapist.

We are living in temporary accommodation and renting out our home as we can no longer afford to live in our home with all the extra payments for enforcement, secretary of state, CSA etc.

I feel I have let my children, partner and family down. I dread to think how much the dept is for now and am afraid to ask

Last month my endowment policy that I have been paying for 25 years matured. This policy was to pay for half of the loan on our house. The CSA took me to the county court, and I have been forced to pay this money to them for the outstanding dept which will lead to more monetary problems. The CSA are now taking us back to court to force the sale of our home which we will loose now anyway.
In the judges summary he said to me “you are a victim of circumstances”. He went on to say that “even I can not overturn a decision made by the lower Tribunal”.

I don’t blame anyone if they find all this hard to believe. I think I would find it hard to believe myself if it was not us in this situation. Even my close family and friends find it hard to believe until I show them letters, personal papers etc, then they are gob smacked, and can not believe that a governing body could do this. I currently have collected 5 secretary folders full of letters etc, since 2006 with regards to my case. Being a lay person to family law, 85% of the letters sent I do not understand like most other parents. I continually ring and write to the CSA like other parents, and become even more baffled by all their procedures, laws and regulations. You need a degree in family law to deal with them.
Investigating further there are lots of other parents in the same situation throughout the UK. Even more concerning and worrying I have read reports on the internet of over 60 parents committing suicide because of such circumstances caused by the CSA.
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I always thought before any involvement with the CSA, that they were there to see fare play, and chase parents who avoided paying for their children. I suppose parents like me who are upfront and honest with them are easy targets, who they don’t have to chase to keep up their conversion rates and rekindle the loses made by previous governments.
There are also resident parents out there as well who also have all kind of problems with the CSA.

I have to attend another tribunal soon and would like to ask if anyone out there knows of a good solicitor that could represent us.

Not all is lost; we are lucky we still have my two children, family and friends.

If you got this far reading my letter thanks.

Kind Regards,

T and R

Comments

2 Responses to “CSA wants to send me to prison”

  1. Magna Cartel on June 27th, 2011 1:49 am

    Sorry this is brief, but you should really read this!

    http://www.deadbeatdadsassociation.co.uk/index_files/Page11241.htm

    They can’t imprison you if you don’t have a solicitor and tell the one they offer you to take a jump!…

    Magna Cartel

  2. Vic on June 27th, 2011 6:41 pm

    Thank you for posting this I read every word.

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